Covering Scottish politics has its moments, but going to Holyrood for a day’s work is not normally a cause for celebration.
But these are strange times.
After six months or so working from home, I took my first, tentative steps back to my office in the Scottish Parliament building.
In the pre-Covid era, I have to confess that I would have rarely anticipated a trip to the office with such mustard-like keenness.
But in these troubled times the trip up the road to Holyrood felt like an exciting departure from what has become the “new normal” for me and many others – sitting at home, plonked in front of a laptop, keeping in touch with parliament from afar.
Never before has a bus ride to work felt like a liberating experience. But this morning it did, even though I was wearing a face mask.
Would my parliamentary pass still work? Could I remember how to negotiate Holyrood’s formidable security system? And would my computer fire up properly in unfamiliar surroundings? These silly thoughts crossed my mind as I walked down from Abbeyhill to the parliament.
The reason for the change of routine was that my name had come out of the hat when it came to allocating the socially distanced ring-side seats for journalists at the Alex Salmond inquiry. This was to provide the main political action of the day. It did not disappoint. The second appearance of Scotland’s most senior civil servant, Leslie Evans, in front of the committee provided some moments of drama. And it made a change to be able to eyeball the participants rather than staring blankly into a computer screen.
After emerging from the committee room, which had been rearranged to comply with physical distancing measures, it was almost – if not quite – an absolute pleasure to bump into the occasional MSP. After months of isolation, it made a pleasant change from speaking over the phone.
But despite this, there was little of the atmosphere that characterised Scotland’s cradle of democracy before the pandemic struck.
The obvious thing was that there were far fewer people than normal. “Hybrid working”, involving zoom calls for some members, was in operation in the chamber. The corridors had an eerie quality. The canteen was far from its usual bustling self. The downstairs bar of blessed memory was closed, although drinks were available in the larger restaurant. The hangers-on in the garden lobby were a pale imitation of the gossipy gatherings of old. In all, it felt rather like being dropped back at school a few days before the start of term.
Even so it did feel good to go to Holyrood for the day. Who knows when I’ll be back?